Day Five
Today I’m going to taste my kimchi for the first time. I’m excited, and perhaps a little nervous. My wife's convinced I have something poisonous growing in those jars. The odour coming from the pots perturbs her. She’s not too keen on the tasting I have planned for our family either, but I’m hopeful it will be a success.
I woke early and hurried to the spare room where I’ve been keeping the fermentation jars. Eagerly I unwrapped them from the dozens of plastic bags I'd used to hold back the smell. Peeling off layer after layer of wrapping felt a bit like Christmas. I placed the pots on the kitchen worktop to inspect and photograph them. On visual inspection, there doesn’t appear to be much change. The kimchi hasn’t achieved the bright red colour I was hoping for, perhaps it will take more time? I’ve heard three weeks is optimal, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait that long. I think it’s more likely because of the chilli flakes I used to make the paste, in future I’ll try using chilli powder or perhaps grind the flakes up with a pestle and mortar.
After taking a few photos, I removed the lids from the jars and got a good whiff of that kimchi smell. It’s lovely how an aroma can bring back memories; suddenly I was in Asia learning how to eat rice with chopsticks. The illusion broke when my wife came in holding her nose, ‘that smell woke me up!’ She said, then closed the kitchen door and proceeded to open every window in the apartment. ‘Are you actually going to eat that for breakfast?’ She said, appearing back at the door still pinching her nose.
‘Of course,’ I replied. She shook her head and retreated to the relative safety of the bedroom.
First Taste
I spooned a large helping into a bowl, then took a few more photos, before finally taking my first mouthful. Immediately that unique sour flavour hit my taste buds. ‘Success!’ I thought. Next, the heat of the chillies filled my mouth, a lot of heat. In truth, I may have used too many chillies. I’m a fan of spicy food, but not at the expense of flavour. There was no real aftertaste from my kimchi, just a lot of heat. I took a second mouthful, and my enthusiasm waned slightly. It was good, but not quite right. Flavour’s a difficult thing to describe, but I would say my kimchi had a clean, sour taste, maybe even a little sharp, with a lot of heat that lingered in the mouth for quite a while afterwards. I ate the rest of the bowl and consoled myself a little. It was a good first effort, and it quelled my kimchi cravings, but there’s room for improvement.
Family Tasting
Sunday lunchtime and my family and I all gathered around the dinner table to eat Lomo Saltado, a Peruvian favourite, expertly prepared by my grandmother-in-law. After everyone finished eating, I fetched my kimchi jars. They were all eager to try some, after reading the online articles about the health benefits I’d been bombarding them with over the last week. There was a bit of face pulling and giggles as I removed the lids from the jars and began to spoon the kimchi out. I think I’ve become accustomed to it, but it seems the smell can be a bit off-putting to the uninitiated. In fairness though, everybody had a taste, and they all agreed it tasted a lot better than it smelled. My brother-in-law, in particular, seemed to enjoy it, he finished the whole bowl after everyone else had tried a bit. Given that my first reaction to kimchi wasn’t favourable, all in all, I was pleased with their responses. Of course, they are all polite people, so I can’t be sure they're not just sparing my feelings, but I’ll wait and see if anyone comes back for more. Perhaps it will grow on them as it did with me.
Improvements And Conclusion
Overall, given the changes I had to make to the recipe, I’m happy with the results. I’m sure I used too much ginger and too much chilli. I also think I need to put more effort into making the paste, perhaps using a pestle and mortar to grind up those chilli flakes and help them release their colour. I’m going to look harder for a Napa cabbage as well, the regular cabbage I used is a bit too robust, it didn’t break down well. Some fish sauce may also add a bit more of a savoury flavour, but it’s difficult to find in Peru.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my kimchi making efforts, I've had fun, and I’d recommend giving it a go yourself. If anyone does make homemade kimchi and wants to give me some pointers, it would be much appreciated.
Also See Part One and Part Two

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